Digital Tipping Point: Joerg Heilig, Sun Microsystems Senior Engineering Director talks about OpenOffice.org 17
In this series of 18 interview segments, Sun Microsystems Senior Engineering Director Joerg Heilig talks about OpenOffice.org, a project that he was responsible for within Sun. He talks about the economic motivation for Sun to sponsor OpenOffice.org; OpenOffice.org's competition with Microsoft; the importance of free file formats; and how Sun interacts with the OpenOffice.org community council. This is a great interview with the guy who was responsible for what has become arguably one of the top five Free Open Source Software projects in the world. OpenOffice.org fills a critical need for a Free (as in Free Speech) office productivity suite that is capable of competing with Microsoft's juggernaut Office productivity suite. If the real world digital tipping point does arrive and Free Open Source Software reaches 51% on the consumer desktop, it will be in no small measure thanks to OpenOffice.org.
In segment 16 (Tape 151~007-009), Joerg says that Microsoft claims that the cost of its Microsoft Office licenses are less than the cost of training people to move to OpenOffice.org (OOo), but Joerg says that they are working on reducing those costs with improving the user interface in OOo 2.0 and they are working on automating the process of migrating your documents from Microsoft office to OOo. He believes that by reducing the costs of migration, the OOo community will make it easier to move to OOo. At the last OOo conference, there were participants from all over the world. He met a guy from Japan. Another guy he met came from the former Yugoslavia and traveled by bus for 3 days to get to the conference in Hamburg. It was a big reward for him to see people coming from all over the world. It was a lot of work to open-source Star Office, but seeing that kind of international participation was a big reward for him. Switching topic, he says that Sun actually pays people to work integrating community interests with the interests of the Sun interests. One of them is a guy who works in Dublin, Ireland, who spends all day on the OOo discuss lists. He lists two other people who are doing similar work. He says that there are some interesting characters in the OOo community. Some of the community members are serious business people. Others are people who just like the project and express opinions on wide and diverse aspects of the project. Some of the people on the discuss lists make good contributions, but others just like to see themselves in print on the email lists. So you need to filter out the good from the bad. People have to build up reputations on the list. But even people who make silly comments at first can become serious contributors later. He has seen odd-ball people become respected contributors to the list.
In segment 17 (Tape 152~001), Joerg says that Sun will listen to OOo community members, even if their opinions diverge from Sun's opinion. One example is the role of Java in OpenOffice.org. Some people say that Java is not open enough to have Java in OpenOffice.org. [This interview was shot in 2004. Sun Microsystems later opened up Java to the point where even Richard Stallman, the most exacting Free Software leader, acknowledged Java as Free Software. So this is an example of the community actually starting a position which was later adopted by a commercial company like Sun, although people will disagree as to why Sun did so). He says that OOo community members vary widely from those who don't mind having proprietary Java in OOo, to those who object that Java does not belong in OOo because it is not Free Software. He then switches topics to talk about OOo community member Sophie Gautier. Sophie is French, but lives in Africa. Her focus is on bringing Free Software to Africa. He quotes Sophie as saying that in Africa, all software is free software. It's a funny quote because it shows some countries don't care about software intellectual property. He thinks that this attitude will benefit Free Open Source Software (F0SS). Sophie has done a lot for OOo in France, also, as she has lots of connections in France.
In segment 18 (Tape 152~003), Joerg says that the mission of OpenOffice.org (OOo) is to create the leading international office productive suite that implements open free standards. For the average user, the goal of the project is to provide a good Free alternative to existing commercial office productivity suites that charges a couple hundred dollars for a license. OOo is both a project and a product. He believes that about 90% of the world can use OOo now, due to its remarkable localization process.
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All of Joerg's interview segments can be found here:
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv150_sf_01_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_modified_b_001.ogg (segment 01)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv150_sf_01_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_001_002.ogg> (segment 02)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv150_sf_01_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_003.ogg (segment 03)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv150_sf_01_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_003.ogg (segment 04)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv150_sf_01_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_003.ogg (segment 05)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv150_sf_01_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_003.ogg (segment 06)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv150_sf_01_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_003.ogg (segment 07)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv150_sf_01_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_003.ogg (segment 08)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv150_sf_01_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_003.ogg (segment 09)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv151_sf_02_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_001.ogg (segment 10)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv151_sf_02_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_002.ogg (segment 11)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv151_sf_02_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_003.ogg (segment 12)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv151_sf_02_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_004.ogg (segment 13)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv151_sf_02_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_005.ogg (segment 14)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv151_sf_02_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_006.ogg (segment 15)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv151_sf_02_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_modified_007_009.ogg (segment 16)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv152_sf_03_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_001.ogg (segment 17)
http://www.archive.org/details/e-dv152_sf_03_joerg_heilig_sun_open_office_002.ogg (segment 18)
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